Qatar Air’s First Airbus A380 Superjumbo Will Ply Heathrow Route

Qatar Airways Ltd. said its initial Airbus Group NV A380 doubledecker plane will operate from the carrier’s Doha base to London Heathrow, Europe’s busiest hub.

Qatar Air’s first superjumbo, one of three due in June, will replace an aging Airbus A340 on the route, Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said at a press conference in Berlin.

Heathrow has become a top destination for the A380 as a consequence of London’s status as a major business center and a lack of operating slots at the airport that favors deployment of the biggest planes to maximize capacity. Qatar has orders for 10 superjumbos, a model Dubai-based rival Emirates has used in record numbers to grab a chunk of global transfer traffic and establish itself as the No. 1 airline on international routes.

Qatar Air A380s will feature the widest first-class seats in the industry and an in-flight lounge, Al Baker said, adding that they’ll also have a modified wing and increased payload.

The second-biggest Gulf carrier will preface A380 flights to London with a new service using an Airbus A319 narrow-body in an all-business-class layout with 40 seats, it said Feb. 18. The operation starts May 15, adding a sixth daily Heathrow trip.

Al Baker said glitches with the Boeing Co. 787 are “not serious” and normal on a new model subject to ongoing upgrades.

Doha’s much-delayed Hamad International Airport will open “imminently,” the CEO said, with a U.S. border point likely to be established there in a year. The third such facility in the Gulf after Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the office will allow visitors to the U.S. to clear customs and immigration controls before flying, enhancing security and reducing journey times.